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Campus Initiatives - University Classroom Observation Program

The University Classroom Observation Program (UCOP) brings middle and high school teachers to the UMaine campus during the spring semester to observe instruction in university STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses.


Benefit to UMaine

  • Document the learner-centered nature of STEM instruction
  • Information is used to provide targeted professional development

Benefit to middle and high school teachers

  • Observe instruction in university STEM courses
  • Learn to use observation protocols
  • Two teachers sitting side by side filling in a classroom observation protocolReflect on issues of teaching and learning with colleagues; see others teach while also reflecting on their own practice
  • Experience objective evaluation of classrooms and teachers
  • Get a realistic view of the level of rigor expected in college

This program offers a reciprocal exchange between the university and K-12 communities.  University graduate students and faculty are conducting research in middle and high school classrooms and UCOP offers teachers an opportunity to participate in research that benefits UMaine.

How does it work?

  • Faculty permission is obtained for teachers to observe their classrooms.
  • Teachers spend 3 days on campus learning to use observation protocols, observing classes, and participating in group discussion sessions.  During the 2013 spring semester 16 teachers observed 23 introductory UMaine STEM courses in 7 different departments.

Observation Protocol

Teachers primarily use the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM during their observations.  This protocol is used to document what the instructor and students are doing in two-minute increments throughout the classroom period.

The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): a New Instrument to Characterize University STEM Classroom Practices Michelle Smith, Francis Jones, Sarah Gilbert, and Carl Wieman, CBE-Life Sciences Education, Vol 12(4), pp. 618-627 (2013).

For more information also see this resource page about COPUS.

What will UMaine do with the observation data?

  • Observation data will benefit professional development at UMaine
  • Faculty can use observation data in tenure and promotion portfolios

Comment from participating faculty member

Picture of faculty member, Brian Olsen“I feel I have a lot to gain from interacting more with K-12 teachers. In addition to their more intensive pedagogical training than my own, K-12 teachers are decades ahead of universities in implementing active learning styles.”  -Brian Olsen, Assistant Professor of Biology and Ecology


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